A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

May 3, 2007

Where You Stand Politically

So, you want to  know where you stand and how you can get that cool little icon like I have on my blog?

Well, just go to this site and take the quiz.  I would put no opinion if you are not sure about something.

Please post your results, and you get BIG TIME BONUS POINTS for reasonableness if you score Moderate, Conservative or Liberal!  I “hope” I have constructed a place where divergent views are allowed and where we gain from seeing each other’s perspective.  I also hope that sometimes someone will say, I see your point, or something like that.

So often politics are too personal, so maybe this would at least bring back agreeable discussion and dissent to the forefront.

I’m posting this on all topics to hopefully get maximum participation.

IF you wish to take the quiz it is here.


April 26, 2007

What is a Liberal; What is a Conservative.

This brilliant post came as a result of a discussion on Woman Honor Thyself about gay rights. I love discussions which make me think, and something that had been ticking away just came out. It was one of my replies to many of the comments of “the left says this”.

There are so many mentions of the “left” and the “right” on blogs. Since I think many would consider this a “Conservative” blog, though I’m sure many “Conservatives” would call this place a den of Marxism or radical leftism, I asked think, What exactly is the Right would be a most approproriate question.

Are you of the “right” if you are a traditional conservative in the mold of Barry Goldwater that wanted small government, few intrusions by the Federal into the state and high amounts of libertarianism thrown in?

Are you of the right when you want BIG government with HUGE intrusions of the Federal into daily life with low regard for libertarianism thrown in as shown by NCLB, The Patriot Act and “The War on Drugs”.

Are you of the left when you support such “big government” positions as shown by the three I mentioned and add The New Deal and some of The Great Society programs thrown in.


Are you of the right when you side with those who would say yes to expressions of religion in the public domain such as The Ten Commandments being on public displays, religious markers – including Wiccan due to a recent court ruling – being allowed to be put in government owned cemeteries for veterans at tax payer expenses (38 religions – now 39 are officially allowed)

Are you of the left when you feel that Wicca markers should be paid for by your tax dollars.
Are you of the Left or the Right when you contemplate the full circle that “Conservativism” has undergone when you look at the start of the GOP as a “more conservative” political organization dedicated to stopping the expansion of slavery, but shifted pretty radically left when Emancipation – was imposed on rebellious states, and then the Radical COngress of the 1860’s and 70’s were they left or right?

The terms themself are hard to monitor as being of the left/liberal or being of the right/conservative has little meaning anymore.

When I define myself as a Conservative by saying I like BIG Government with regard to The Patriot Act, NCLB, The “War on Drugs” and even other “liberal??” aspects of it such as The New Deal, Social Security, and The Great Society, I also realize that I am in favor of unions and worry about the ecology of the planet, and kind of like that the Feds stepped in and mandated civil rights in 1964 as well as intergration of public schools in 1952. Time to stop kidding myself, I don’t dislike “Big Government” so maybe I’m a lefty after all.

Maybe, what makes me self defined as a Conservative, is that I’m as HAWKISH as they come, well, except for the loonies who are to the right of me!

Such labels are impossible to uphold anymore in today’s hegemony of political stances. The question is which party puts up with diverging views better. And also, which one lines up with who you are at your core.

The Supremes Latest Tune: CFR Out the Door

Today the US Supreme Court heard arguements concerning campaign finance reform.  The questions and comments from the case seemed to break along ideological lines with more liberal members of the Court defending the legislation, while more Conservative members, particularly Justice Scalia may have tipped his hand when he said, “It is better to allow some bad speech . . . than to eliminate good speech that is justified.”

The particular issue at hand was a case that involved a pro-life series of advertisements which ran late in Wisconsin’s Senatorial campaign, and asked for those with questions to call Sen. Feingold (D-WI), the author of CFR legislation along with Sen. McCain (R-AZ).

For full details on the story click here.

CFR is not the favorite topic among many Conservatives who see it as an issue of free speech.  Candidly, I find that a smoke screen for the line towed by special interest groups and big lobbyist groups, who wish to peddle cash for influence of the political process.  In the long run, a free and open debate always benefits a democracy, but there is nothing “Free” about the types of tactics used by groups which have been speaking in political campaigns for certain causes.  If anything, the loopholes left in CFR legislation need to be tightened so that groups such as Moveon.org and Swiftboat veterans find it harder to get their message across.  Candidly, the negative advertising and false insinuations by many of these organizations need to be held to the same standards of libel as all speech.  If the allegations promoted by these organizations proves to be true, then it is fine that they are aired, however, if the allegations are proved in fact to be false, those who produce, traffic, and fund these advertisements should be punished harshly by torte law.

Free speech is one thing, there is nothing free with the types of ads that were run prior to CFR and by many of those which run using the loopholes of CFR.  Thus the adage of “The Golden Rule” is proven again.  Those with the gold, make the rules.

April 22, 2007

E-Bay The Gun Runners Paradise

A post by my good friend Roger.

So let’s see if I have this all straight.

1. Cho, Seung-Hui, the mad gunman of VT, had an e-bay account.
2. He used this account to bypass federal and state background check regulations.
3. The good folks at e-Bay had no obligation to assure that the gun supplies listed on the e-Bay website did not get sold to the wrong people.

Wow! Now that makes me feel safe and secure. So is Cho, a buyer that could not pass muster on Federal or State background checks could purchase weapons and weapon supplies (presumably because his name never hit the Federal background check data base) then what is to stop some Christian, Muslim or Jewish fanatic from using e-Bay as its gun dealer of choice?

I feel for y’all, who think the Second Amendment preserves the absolute right to unfettered gun ownership. I’ll bet you are the same folks that scream that our borders ought be better secured. Do you see the (dis)connection here? If we want more security we have to begin with the biggest hole in the bucket. Regulate guns and gun purchases. Make ammunition subject to the same constraints as the weapons themselves. Background checks are a small beginning. Social responsibility is the responsibility of all of us, each and every one of us. Now is the time to accept that responsibility. Secure our borders and stop the insane flow of guns into the hands of those who would misuse those weapons.

My Comments:  You forgot he had a 98.5% rating.  Talk about nailing it on the head.  I was going to post on this, but happily GMTA.

I do own guns, but I’m not a looney, and I have NO problem with waiting periods and registration as well as reasonable safeguards to protect society.  Policy decisions always demand the “balancing” of rights of individuals and “safeguards” to society.  Well said, Roger.

April 19, 2007

Public Schools Embrace Islam?

In 1962 the New York State Regents passed a policy to “combat the decline of morals in public life” that called for “moral and spiritual training” as a part of the school day. The Regents introduced a generic prayer to be said by students in the public school as a part of the morning activities. The prayer recites: “

Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.”

This prayer drew criticism from the ACLU, and was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1963 by a 7-1 ruling. Personally, I agree with the ruling, as it was in my opinion unduly entangling the secular with the relgious world. On the other hand, here we are many years later with this “generic” prayer ditched and on the verge of being replaced with Muslim prayers.

New York City is about to open a new taxpayer funded “Arabic themed” school in Brooklyn. Khalil Gibran International Academy will be led by Debbie Almontaser a Muslim of Yemeni background. “It is a school that is going to be working quite hard in building bridges of understanding, tolerance and acceptance, valuing diversity and truly just developing students into global citizens,” says Almontaser. While some of this sounds good, this school will go a good deal further than those arguably, altruistic goals.

The New York City school’s goal is to focus on Arabic aka Islamic themes in education and eventually to teach half of the classes in the Arabic language. Isn’t it interesting that just recently Oxford University in London, England decided not to teach certain subjects like the Holocaust or the Crusades in the school’s history classes because they might offend some of the Muslim students. Yet, in America tax payers are at the very least facilitating a religion.

A valid question that many have asked if the Muslim religion could be separated from the school. In response to that question Almonstaser said,

“Being that we are a public school, we certainly are not going to be teaching religion.”

Maybe not but they will be facilitating it. I also wonder if the Islamic mandates of prayer, not voluntary mind you, will be enforced or will be disallowed. Will accomodations be made during Ramadan. All of these sound precariously close to an “undue entanglement” of the state with a “particular religion”, and all of this would be unconstitutional.

In Lemon v Kurtzman,403 U.S. 602 (1971) the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Pennsylvania’s 1968 Nonpublic Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which allowed the state Superintendent of Public Instruction to reimburse nonpublic schools (most of which were Catholic) for teachers’ salaries, textbooks and instructional materials, violated the Establishment clause of the First Amendment. The decision also upheld a decision of the First Circuit, which had struck down the Rhode Island Salary Supplement Act providing state funds to supplement salaries at nonpublic elementary schools by 15%. As in Pennsylvania, most of these funds were spent on Catholic schools. The following guidelines were established, and these are the Law of the US.

1. The government’s action must have a legitimate secular purpose;
2. The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
3. The government’s action must not result in an “excessive entanglement” with religion.

On the face this school would seem to be in patent violation of the third and possibly the third prong of “The Lemon Test”.

There are other instances of the state becoming “excessively entangled” in facilitating Islamic needs. Consider the policy of Minneapolis Community Colleges. The colleges have installed facilities to enable Muslim students to perform ritual feet washing before daily prayers at the college. Muslims are required to pray five times a day but must first wash their feet. According to President Phil Davis the school is simply extending “hospitality” to their newcomers. However, are such “hospitable” extentions afforded to Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or other practitioners of a relgious faith. This practice would seem to be in violation of all prongs of the lemon test.

The question is why are public institution policies so correctly careful to not estabish or facilitate Christianity and Judaism, but are bending over backwards for Islam. I make no secret that I am a practioner of Christianity, however, I am not thrilled with public dollars being spent facilitating and advancing any religion unless there is a clear and legitimate secular purpose being served. These two instances don’t come close to meeting that standard.

April 14, 2007

What the Duke Case Means for John and Jane Q. Citizen

Reading MissLittleChatterbox today, I came across this post about the Duke case.

A vital statement about society was echoed by these players, and then by Rush Limbaugh this week, about the trend to accept the authorities word as always being correct. This is a view that people far too often put into practice, and is one of the better aspects of having strong discourse in the public sphere. This case shows the need and the continued existence of diverging ideas, agitation, free speech, and continued demands by the public for the furtherance of transparency of government.

While I am happy that these young men have deservedly had their names cleared, a great burden falls on society to consider what of those who do not have the means to combat and defend against incidents of prosecution, which resembles practices more commonly thought of with the Third Reich and Stalinist Russian than the United States. It must never be forgotten that terms such as a presumption of innocence mean something. That government exists by the consent of the governed. That the little people, collectively, mean in the end a great deal more than the power of the state. Yes, I am a strong believer in the principles of Federalism, and want a strong government. I also want them off my back, out of my wallet and bedroom and to do what they are Constitutionally mandated to do; provide for the common defence, ensure domestic tranquility, and promote the general welafare of the people. Also, while they may need to watch people to secure these objectives, must always be watched by the people. That’s all of our jobs, and not those who are elected into power.

Our Constitution is meant to protect the common man from overzealous government. It is time that John and Jane Q. Citizen remember that by bringing back a healthy dose of skepticism towards government and defense of the guarantees of civil liberties and rights enjoyed by common citizens we demonstrate the values of the Founders of our Republic. That is called Patriotism, and it is neither a Republican, Democrat, Conservative or Liberal responsibility. In that view, to paraphrase Jefferson’s inaugural address, we are all Republicans and we are all Democrats.

March 21, 2007

Schools Allowed to Ban Face Veils

In the UK schools are now allowed to ban pupils from wearing full-face veils on security, safety, or learning grounds under a new policy by the government.

This post was commented by Woman Honor Thyself, which agreed with the policy.

There are some basic points which are expressed by the law, and there may be a positive aspects from an educational standpoint.  It is important that teachers are able to see the reaction of students to information to monitor progress.  It can also be argued that veils dehumanize female students.  All of this is true, but is this policy in the UK good for the US or even good for the UK with regard to civil liberties – and that is not code-word that I am an ACLU fanatic.  It does mean that civil liberties are very important.

Much has bee made about the inroads of Islamic culture within Europe the UK and the United States, and this blog has often commented about multiculturalism.  Prime Minister Blair had this to say about some who wish to retain full identity of their own culture, while denouncing the culture of their own nation, “Multicultural diversity, he declared, had led to separation and alienation by a minority of Britain’s Muslim community who subscribed to a ‘new and virulent form of ideology’. All minorities had a duty to integrate, and if they didn’t want to conform to British values they should not come to Britain because the ‘hatemongers’ were not wanted here.” 

To this statement, which affirms the vital role of humanistic coexistence within a diverse society, we would have to agree heartily.  However, with regard to the banning of facial veils in a public school, that same agreement cannot be given.

I think that multiculturalism when all embrace the fundamental human rights of others can have a positive effect on a society. It would be dangerous to be exclusive as a knee jerk reaction. As members of a free society that places a value upon individual rights and inputs, while we must buoy our awareness of the danger of extremism, the best cure for that is to remain ever vigilent of repression in any form against individuals. Democracy and liberty require responsible citizenry. I would applaud Mr. Blair’s statements. It is regrettable that such an honorable and decent human being has been run out of the executive position in England.

With regard to the veils in the school, as an educator I see some problems with it, but if it did not create a distraction to the learning process, or pose a security threat, I would not oppose it. While I am second to none in my opposition to the barbaric treatment of women in Islamic cultures, and am concerned about some of the more infamous practices now being reported in the US – genital mutilation as an instance – to ban this expression of religious belief in a public setting could be a slippery slope. At what point would wearing a Crucifix or a Star of David be seen as disruptive to the process or be seen as an establishment of religion. To view this as a form of parental repression is also a stretch. Many Christians and Jewish children are compelled by their parents to participate in their religious heritage, and this is a part of the rights of parents to guide the lives of their own minor children.

By protecting this fundamental right of individual expression of a religious belief we protect the rights of all relgious people to allow their free speech in a public sector. Let us be careful in what powers we grant the state with regard to reasonable expressions of faith in the public life.

March 19, 2007

The Supremes New Hit: “Tinkering” With Free Speech?

Today the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case about free speech within a public school.  It is expected that a decision will be reached sometime this Spring.  You may have to wait to Spring to finish this post, it’s a long one, but well worth the reading.

The particulars of the case are not at all unfamiliar, and this case will likely make school officials have to read up again on the balance between the authority of the school’s policies and that of free speech.  The benchmark for this balancing is the “Tinker” case.   This case, decided in 1965, involved students who were suspended for wearing black armbands to protest the Vietnam War.  The school suspended the students, and they were not allowed to return if they would not remove the armbands.  In this case, the Court sided with the plaintiffs, that wearing the arm bands was free speech, and that the school had acted arbitrarily, capriciously, and unreasonably because they had singled out this one method of showing protest, rather than prohibiting the wearing of all controversial insignias.  Since the wearing of armbands did not materially and substantively interfere with the discipline of the school, the students did not lose their rights when entering the doors of the school.

Other cases have limited or defined what exactly composes free speech.  In 1986 Bethel v Fraser limited speech in a school setting.  A student used profanity in an assembly supporting the candidacy of a friend, after he had been warned that the speech was inappropiate and his delivery of the speech would result in serious consequences.  The speech, which was laced with profanity and sexual metaphor, was delivered, and there were reported discipline problems.  Fraser was suspended and removed from eligibility to address the school at graduation.  Both lower courts affirmed the plaintiffs rights had been violated, including the well-known, 9th Circuit, and awarded damages to the plaintiff, but the case was reversed by the Supremes.

Citing that although the Tinker Doctrine was law, that “sexual content of respondent’s speech in this case seems to have been given little weight by the Court of Appeals.”  The Court added, “[Public] education must prepare pupils for citizenship in the Republic. . . . It must inculcate the habits and manners of civility as values in themselves conducive to happiness and as indispensable to the practice of self-government in the community and the nation.”

Another Court case, Hazlewood v Kuhlmeir, 1988, concerned the extent that a school had over a student publication, a student newspaper.  The paper enjoyed a large circulation, beyond the school, and was published with funds paid for by the Board of Education.  Two stories, one dealing with abortion and divorce, were eliminated due to fears that students may be identified, even though aliases had been used.  The paper was printed with those stories deleted, and the students sued.  The 8th Circuit ruled with the students, but the Supremes reversed.  Again, while citing the Tinker Doctrine, “Students in the public schools do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate”, Court reversed on the basis that, “A school need not tolerate student speech that is inconsistent with its ‘basic educational mission,’ even though the government could not censor similar speech outside the school.   So, the trend has emerged that although Free Speech is guaranteed, there are Constitutional limits that Public Schools, with greater range than the government at large can place upon such speech.

A few instances in the news will be challenging this.  Recently, in Upstate NY, three girls were suspended by the school for quoting from “The Vagina Monologues” at a public event.  The girls were suspended, and seemed to enjoy their moment of fame brought on by cries of “violation of their First Amendment Rights”.  However, it seems that their parents, attorneys, and the young ladies need to read up on Fraser.  The school, possibly scared by the prospect of a law suit, dropped the suspension. 

Another instance is found in many schools perhaps “Tinkering” with free speech has to do with the number of blogs and sites such as “Rate my Teacher”.  All too often instances of cyber-bullying are occurring off the campus of the school, yet which impact upon the school’s ability to perform its educational purpose.   Some schools are arguing, that the limitations of “Tinker” should apply to speech which occurs off campus, but has an impact on campus.  There are some court cases in the thicket right now, and undoubtedly some of these will likely land within the domain of “The Supremes”.

Recently, there was controversy over high school students recognition of “A Day of Silence“.   The Day of Silence is one of the largest student generated events designed as a form of protest over treatment of gays and lesbians in American society.  It is an annual event that runs on April 18.  Students typically wear buttons, armbands, and also refuse to speak on this day.  While some school teachers and administrators may welcome that latter part, obviously this could disrupt the mission of the school.  Students typically have a card to give to teachers to explain, which asks their silence to be excused.  However, some schools have had counter demonstrations, where students wear buttons or t-shirts reading, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”  This has obviously lead to some altercations between groups.  In a school I am acquainted with, one solution was to have the groups discuss both sides of their issues, while allowing both groups to wear the materials. 

All of this brings us back to today’s hearing about a case where a school principal is being sued for tearing down a sign that promoted “Bong hits 4 Jesus”.  The principal is represented by Kenneth Starr, who argued, “This is disruptive of the educational mission and inconsistent with the school’s message” against using drugs, Starr said.  Ironically, several religious rights group have joined the plaintiffs in this case, stating concern that this ruling may limit students wearing t-shirts or buttons which would proclaim a praising of Jesus. 

The principal in this suit, initially suspended the students for five days, and then doubled it when the student invoked his First Amendment Rights.  The principal’s decision and discipline were affirmed by the Federal Court, but reversed by the famous 9th Circuit.  Enter The Supremes.  Today, Justice Souter provided much of the commentary, and his questions and responses may portend that the Court will side with the principal.  Will this be an affirmation of the school’s right to control behavior or will Tinker be “Tinkered with” again. 

March 8, 2007

States go after smoking in vehicles with kids

Filed under: ACLU,Automobiles,children,Crime,Education,General,Health — avoiceofreason @ 2:33 am

This was already signed into law in Arkansas by Gov. Huckabee, and is on the books in Louisianna.  Several counties in Maine have this law, and Connecticutt, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Vermont are considering similar legislation.    Further news about this development can be read at Stateline.org.

I was using this today in a Social Studies lesson with a political cartoon.  Sadly, I can’t find it.  A man is wondering about ways to help his family while puffing away.  His kids are reacting in the back.

Part of me can see the sense in this bill.  Smoking is bad for you, and kids are important.  They also don’t typically have a choice when you take them to the ball game or to school on how they get there.  However, this may be a slippery slope.  A car is private property, and smoking is a legal activity.  At what point can government intrusion be acceptable, even if it does reap a real benefit to another.  Could this law be used to forbid smoking in private residences?  Could it lead to censorship of music, television – of course the ACLU will want to make sure that child-porn is exempt – I kid.

Not a black and white issue.  Kind of grey and smoky.

March 7, 2007

Illegal Immigration – Putting Reason Into the Madness

Well it is now time to take on a serious issue, and one that the politicians are in the humble opinion of this blogger using as a new football and litmus test, and throwing sense and solutions out the window.  Something has to be done about the flood of illegal aliens that are daily crossing our border.  A comprehensive plan that is sensitive to the needs of the nation, local communities, and yes, to make sure that exploitation of the people already here does not needlessly occur must transpire.

Priorities in a Reasonable Policy:

1 – The borders must be secured by any legal means, and that means as secure as the proverbial tick on a dogs butt. 

2 – Something must be done with the ten million illegals who are already in the states, and the Presidents compromise of working visas is not going to cut it.  Sometimes compromise is good, but this one served only one constituency group – more on that later.  While some may want for all of them to be tossed back over the river, take a deep breath and realize, that isn’t going to happen.  There would be a backlash, and in the long run this would be inefficient.

3 – Those illegals that do prove to be a threat to national security can either be deported or enjoy a stay in an appropriate prison for any crimes they may have committed, and then be deported. 

This issue needs to become the focus of a reasonable debate, and not the subject of the extremes.  However, the first priority must be enforcement of the border.  No means should be left out of the discussion, up to and including the use of armed military patrols.  No matter how much empathy one may feel, and no one who has read this blog will accuse me of being a hard hearted person, these people are in violation of our laws.  This is not a situation that Mexico, although not where I would want to live, is a nation going through crisis such as Rwanda in the 90’s or Darfour today.  Mexico has a reasonably stable economy, and while not the patron saint of human rights, is a democracy.  There are better candidates for the empathy immigration  plank.  No matter what, nothing positive can ever happen with this problem until the bleeding stops.

The next step would be rigid and even somewhat draconian enforcement of a policy to identify those people who illegaly reside within our borders.  There is no violation of civil liberties here, as these people are in reality persona non gratis, and are not subject to Constitutional protection, other than children who have been born in this nation.  Investigation of these people needs to root out how they were whisked across the border, and who employed them.  This would be the first step into some type of amnesty for these people.  Again, there is no way that John and Jane Q. Public are going to watch countless hours of CNN, MSNBC, and FOX cameras watch the “Trail of Tears” across detention centers where a bus drops these people off over the border.  It will be time to take a big bite of a crummy tasting sandwich and get it over with. 

Of course legal remedies would need to be applied and not soft sold, but applied to the full extent of the law on those people and entities which profitted from the hiring of these people.  A nice punitive tax should be put on those who would give comfort to those who break Federal laws.  There will be a burden initially put on society by these people, who will likely find their way into the social welafare system, and the brunt of it can be paid by the fatcats, who got a lot fatter, on the people’s dime.  Rest assured, it is most likely these same fatcats who are benefitting the most from the flood of illegals into our country.  What do they care?  The change of America from a capitalist system to a corporist system is well documented, and at some point it really will have to be the people who realize that corporate interests are not typically the same as that of the citizenry where they happen to reside.  Are business interests vital to the well being of our economy and the nation, certainly, should they be subject to law, a resounding yes must come forth from the people on this issue.  I’m sure some will villify this view, but ask yourself why should a normal citizen take it on the chin so someone else can laugh all the way to the bank.  The history of corporate double dealings is well documented, and their disregard for the best interestes of the United States predates Coca Cola’s marketing plans to be successful in Nazi Germany.  Corporate interests are monetary, and not always aligned to national interests.

All sharetakers of our Republic have a part to play.  Politicians need to do their job and make sound policy that is effective and deals with causes, rather than posturing for CNN.  The Presidential Primaries are a good ground for this issue.  The one who gets my vote in the long run will be the one who puts forth sound and sane overall policy, and not just a knee jerk reaction to one single issue.

In the short term illegal aliens if naturalized, and again, the pipe dream of massive deportation, even if it is by the book justice isn’t going to happen, and candidly I don’t know if it should.  While this subset of the population will put a great burden on some of the social network, particularly upon education interests, in the long term the benefits will outweigh the short term investment. 

Now, let the fun begin, but remember, be reasonable.

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